How Seahawks Fans—the 12s—Have Grown to a Core Part of the Community
It's hard to imagine a rainy Seattle skyline without 12 Flags flapping in the wind (sometimes so hard that they have to be retired). Then again, it's hard to imagine a new year without an NFC championship, a home game without a Beast Quake touchdown or a February without a Super Bowl trip. There has never been a better time to be a 12.
However, for a moment in 1996, Seattle almost became a city without a football team. Owner Paul Allen had experience owning sports teams and a strong connection to the Seattle community; he was a co-founder of Microsoft, purchased the Portland Trailblazers in 1988 and gave generously in the Seattle area through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. However, with his purchase of the Seahawks, he kicked off a significant expansion of his participation and connection to the Seattle community. Since 1997, Mr. Allen has championed scientific discovery at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, music appreciation with the EMP Museum, the preservation of history at the Flying Heritage Collection and Living Computer Museum, and real-estate development in South Lake Union; helping transform Seattle into a cultural destination and a pioneering innovation district.
Mr. Allen purchased the Seahawks because he understood how football weaves itself into the fabric of a city. Just as he understood that Seattle's musical contributions should be enjoyed, its underdeveloped neighborhoods revitalized and its population of innovative minds tapped—he knew that sports also played an integral role in community development. The potential loss of the Seahawks meant losing a significant opportunity to connect people through shared experiences and civic pride. Through Vulcan Inc. and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Paul Allen has endeavored to create meaningful Seattle institutions and world-class ventures dedicated to inspiring and connecting the community. He recognized that a vital part of that experience would be lost if the Seahawks headed south.
Tucked in among Seattle's oldest and most diverse neighborhoods, the International District and Pioneer Square, the new Seattle Seahawks and their stadium were constructed with the people of Seattle in mind. The phrase "Same Old Seahawks" imploded with the Kingdome. With access to public transit, an overhang to keep fans dry and acoustics that have enabled fans to break world records, the stadium that was once a hot-button political issue transformed into a home for the city's heartbeat. The heartbeat thumps "SEA−HAWKS!"
The passion of the 12s has permeated every aspect of Seattle life—it's hard to tell if the 12s got louder as the Seahawks improved, or if the Seahawks improved because of the support of the 12s. What began as a pregame salute to loud and proud fans has grown into one of the best examples of a sports franchise embracing their passionate fan base. The 12s are mentioned in every press conference, player tweet and sideline interview; and the spirit goes well beyond CenturyLink.
The University of Washington's Burke Museum tracked down and displays the traditional Native American art that inspired the Seahawks logo. The EMP Museum organizes a "12s Takeover" event, offering fans chance to take photos with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and hosted the "We Are 12: Seattle Seahawks and the Road to Victory" exhibit. Icons like the Space Needle, the Great Wheel, Safeco Field, and, of course, CenturyLink Stadium, help light up the skyline blue and green. The tallest building, the Columbia Tower created a blue and green LED display to celebrate monster plays. Even the cranes constructing the Allen Institute for Brain Science in South Lake Union are dressed up with 12 pride. The transformation of the city has a name, #Hawkitecture. Fans drink blue and green #Hawktails on game day and share #WeAre12 selfies while perched in the Hawks Nest.
The Seahawks fandom is legion. From Rainier Valley to the Sammamish plateau. Across the mighty Cascades, through the rainy Olympic peninsula, along the Columbia River, and in the streets of Spokane. Not just in Washington, there are 12s across the country and even the world, all connected by their love of the team.
Most importantly, the Seahawks understand their importance to the 12s and to their community. Success drives increased exposure, and the opportunity to channel that exposure to tell important local stories helps call an audible for organizations looking to advance important causes. The Seahawks Foundation has given over $295,000 and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, through the Seahawks, an additional $262,235. Russell Wilson's "Strong Against Cancer" campaign helps fund patient access to clinical trials and childhood cancer research, and includes a weekly visit by Russell Wilson to Seattle Children's cancer ward, providing comfort, friendship and hope to patients and their families. "Blanket Coverage," Richard Sherman's family foundation, supports homeless youth and holds charity events to assist injured veterans. Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril, Russell Okung, Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett, and Coach Pete Carroll all have foundations dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families in the Puget Sound and beyond.
The excitement of the Super Bowl XLVIII win is fresh in the memory of the 12s as they rally for Super Bowl XLIX. As the team left for Arizona, they crowded along the route to SeaTac for a Seahawks sendoff. Hundreds of thousands of supporters filled the city streets for the post-Super Bowl parade in 2014.
The civic pride that has emerged from the narrative of the Seattle Seahawks is what makes the team, and its relationship with its fans and its city, so special. The support for the Seahawks has connected a city, a state and a region in a shared experience, and everyone benefits when the conversation about the success of Seattle Seahawks morphs into a conversation about the success of the Seattle community. A conversation not about football, but about the important work that Seattle companies including Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks and even the Pike Place Fishmongers do to make Seattle the home of unstoppable innovation alongside unstoppable football. Paul Allen knew it, and the 12s know it. The 12 flag has found a permanent place in Seattle's skyline.